What Is a Census?

According to the United States Census Bureau, “A census aims to count the entire population of a country, and at the location where each person usually lives. The census asks questions of people in homes and group living situations, including how many people live or stay in each home, and the sex, age and race of each person.”

Initially in 1790, the United States Census consisted of only six questions for the Head of Household and was taken longhand by the United States Marshals. Over the years, the questions grew in number and today the census consists of a short form where everyone over the age of eighteen answers.

There are three main censuses: the decennial, the economic and the government.  

Decennial Census

The United States Census counts each person in the country, and where they live on April 1, every ten years.  The actual count for April 1, 2020 will be available in mid 2021. On April 1, 2019, the population estimate for the United States of America was 331,449,281.  Sixty-seven percent of the population initially responded to the decennial census while the remaining people were counted by follow up visits. Almost seventy one percent of the population in Connecticut responded.  The City of New Haven had a 55.4% response rate.


Economic Census

During the census in 1810, the United States Marshals collected population data and also asked the first questions of manufacturing establishments. Questions that measured the nation's economy were asked until the decennial census in 1905, when the U.S. Census Bureau started a separate census of manufacturers (now called the Economic Census) every five years.  Statistics are collected from surveys to measure businesses and their economic impact. Nearly 4 million businesses are covered in almost all industries and all geographic areas of the United States. 

Census of Governments

The Census of Governments takes place every five years since 1957. Data is obtained about how governments are organized, how many people they employ and payroll amounts, and the finances of governments including location, type, and characteristics of state and local governments. Finance and employment data includes revenue, expenditures, debt, assets, number of employees (by full-time and part-time status), payroll, and benefits.

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